IT’S GOOD: Generational opportunity to improve what we have
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Samuel J. Ferreri is mayor of Greenacres, and chairman of the Southeast Florida Executive Committee/Seven50.
December 16, 2012
Seven50 is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for Southeast Florida to unite as a region and plan our future. Consider: Southeast Florida, one of our nation’s top five most populous regions, includes seven counties, 129 local governments, and myriad public agencies and private companies. However, unlike other emerging regions, ours does not have an investment plan to ensure global economic competitiveness and the best-possible quality of life for residents.
Southeast Florida is growing faster than the rest of the country. Many of our strongest assets — attracting hundreds of new residents daily, hosting millions of tourists annually, and receiving billions in investment yearly — also make us vulnerable to changes our residents would not choose if they had a say.
Seven50 will envision opportunities and pressures presented by the 2.7 million additional people and 1.4 million additional jobs expected regionally by 2060. During recent “roadshow” meetings in Monroe, Martin, Indian River and St. Lucie counties, participants expressed concerns about losing their unique way of life.
Some suggested metropolitan counties like Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach should embrace more compact forms of development, greater mix of uses, and the diversity of transit options that make great cities, and absorb the bulk of new arrivals, enabling rural communities to remain rural.
Others want to ensure their counties receive their fair shares of private investment and job growth in specific industries and select locations. Most want to foster a diverse, resilient economy, improved education, increased job opportunities, a balanced transportation network, safeguarded water quality, and better preparedness for impacts of climate change.
Seven50 should not blur county lines or diminish self-government. Rather, it should enable counties to express what they want to become at a time when the other counties, and our shared state and federal agencies, are listening. Seven50 provides a platform for local input to create a non-mandatory vision that embeds local perspectives in the broader regional context. The plan has no regulatory power. If it attains any success, it will be through the power of great ideas created with broad citizen involvement.
A work-in-progress, Seven50 has yet to be written. It began with a competitively awarded grant from the federal government; however, funds are locally managed by the South Florida and Treasure Coast Regional Planning Councils and an executive committee that provides balanced representation from all sectors of every county.
This grant is no different from other federal apportionments, which are ultimately funded by taxes paid by local residents and reinvested into the communities. This is how projects like roads and other infrastructure that lays a foundation for local economic investment are funded. The grant is complemented by private sector commitments of time and resources from a voluntary partnership of more than 200 organizations that includes multiple chambers of commerce, professional organizations like the Urban Land Institute and South Florida Manufacturers Association, business and economic development organizations, and local businesses.
Clearly, this historic project pursues common goals beyond polarizing political views. Seven50 is about leaving a worthy legacy. Still, like most new, unprecedented opportunities, Seven50 is receiving criticism from some.
However, those who have engaged agree the Seven50 plan is being developed with one purpose: to give the public a voice in creating the brightest future for Southeast Florida. We welcome and encourage all constructive input, as it’s integral to the creative process.
If you haven’t attended a meeting, visit Seven50.org to see details about all our events. Join us at our Jan. 24 summit and see for yourself what Seven50 is all about. Those who participated in the first Seven50 Regional Summit last summer or the recent roadshow saw opposing political beliefs set aside when they joined friends, family members, co-workers and neighbors around a table to identify consensus goals.
Seven50 gives us the opportunity to create an investment plan to ensure preservation of every community’s character while enabling every county to benefit from belonging to a complete, efficient, competitive and resilient system. Add your voice to that of thousands of residents, civic and community leaders, educators, health organizations and private investors who are Seven50. Get involved, stay involved.